by Dominic Archer
The Chicago Cubs have a storied history, filled with some of the best players to ever lace up in the big leagues. An all-time Cubs pitching staff could mow down some of the game’s greatest line ups ever. What would that pitching staff look like?
- The Ace of the Staff – Ferguson Jenkins: Jenkins had a stretch of 6 straight seasons (1967-1972) where he won 20 games and had an ERA of under 3.50 each year. Fergie ranks first in pitching WAR (83), fifth in Cubs history in wins (167), third in innings pitched (2673 2/3), and is regarded as the greatest Cubs pitcher of all time.
- The Man Who Could Be an Ace for 29 Other Ball Clubs – Greg Maddux: Maddux is probably best known for his time as a Brave, spending 11 seasons with Atlanta, but started his career with the Cubs and pitched 10 seasons between 2 stints, compiling a 133-112 record with a 3.61 ERA for the north siders. He was the model of consistency and was a perennial gold glover.
- The Red Baron – Rick Sutcliffe: The 6-foot-7 burley righthander spent 8 years as a Cub, tallying an 82-65 record with an ERA of 3.75. The highlight of his career was when the Cubs traded for him in the 1984 season when he went 16-1 with a ERA under 3.00 in his 20 starts with the team, earning him his only Cy Young award.
- The Hometown Kid – Rick Reuschel: The kid from Quincy, IL was drafted by the Cubs in the 3rd round of the 1970 MLB draft and made his debut 2 years later. Reuschel’s 135 wins in his 12 years as a Cub ranks 12th in team history and 2nd post-1965, behind only Fergie Jenkins. Reuschel also ranks 2nd in games started with 343, behind Jenkins. When Fergie Jenkins is the only pitcher who has better numbers than you, I’d say you had a good career.
- From Rags to Riches – Jake Arrieta: Arrieta spent 3-and-a-half seasons with the Orioles before being traded to the Cubs. While in Baltimore, Arrieta compiled a 5.46 ERA and was sent to AAA Iowa after the Cubs acquired him and Pedro Strop for Scott Feldman. When Arrieta got to the north side, his career did a complete 180. His 5 years as a Cub are the least on this list, but they were an excellent 5 seasons. He went 68-31 with a 2.73 ERA, the lowest WHIP of any Cubs pitcher post-1965 (1.034), won the 2015 Cy Young Award, and tossed 2 no-hitters.
- El Toro – Carlos Zambrano: Zambrano was a starter during his time with the Cubs and ranks 1st in strikeouts as a northsider. He just misses my starting rotation, but he would be an excellent long guy.
- The Large Lefty – Sean Marshall: The 6’ 7” Marshall was best known for throwing breaking pitches and inducing a lot of ground balls, which led to a low ERA. After moving to the pen, Marshall had a 3.29 ERA in 303 innings.
- The Rule 5 Pick – Hector Rondon: Rondon logged almost 300 innings as a relief pitcher for the Cubs, moving between closer and middle relief. He had 77 saves and 303 Ks in his 5 seasons as a Cub.
- The Man Who’s Always Ready – Don Elston: Elston’s nickname during his playing career was “Every Day.” His 449 appearances in his 9-year career ranks 4th in the Cubs history. He was a dependable pitcher whose 3.70 ERA shows he was consistent day in and day out.
- Stropy – Pedro Strop: Strop makes an argument for being one of the best Cubs reliever not named Lee Smith or Bruce Sutter. His 2.90 ERA in 411 games as a Cub made him a fan favorite and the go-to option for the 8th inning
- Engine Number 42 – Bruce Sutter: Sutter appeared in 300 games as a Cub and saved 133 games, the second-most in Cubs history. He had a 2.39 ERA, 494 strikeouts, appeared in 4 all-star games, and won the Cy young award in 1979.
- The Finisher – Lee Smith: Smith is the Cubs all-time saves leader with 180, and was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in 2019. Smith’s ERA as a Cub was under 3.00 in 485 games, and he fanned 644 batters in his 8 years as a Cub.
- Mr. 20 K’s – Kerry Wood – Woody’s 20 K game on May 6th, 1998 is arguably one of the best pitching performances ever, if not the best. Wood split time between the bullpen and the rotation, appearing in 341 games with a career ERA of 3.67. The biggest “what if” in Cubs history is “what if Kerry Wood never got hurt?” He tallied 16 stints on the Disabled List and only started 30 games twice in his time as a starter. Kerry Wood is one of the most popular Cubs of all time and gave Cub fans a pitching performance for the ages.